Research into benefits of mobile abattoirs
The Scottish government is to evaluate the potential of mobile abattoirs.
Such a service could end the need for livestock being transported long distances from remote farms and crofts.
Mobile abattoirs are used in Scandinavia, France, Australia and New Zealand.
The government is making funding available for research into the operation of a mobile service in Scotland. The study could start in March.
A spokesman said: "We recognise the importance local slaughter provisions can play in the red meat sector.
"That is why we have invited applications to bid for a research project that will look to assess the viability and sustainability options of mobile abattoirs in Scotland."
The government said the project was expected to provide detailed analysis of all aspects that would be required to operate mobile abattoirs in Scotland.
This will include reviewing business models in other countries, costs involved and also the regulatory environment.
NFU Scotland said there had been a "steady and worrying loss" of small abattoirs across Scotland over the past few years, and businesses in more remote areas had been "screaming out for a solution".
President Andrew McCornick said: "It is encouraging to see that Scottish government is looking into the feasibility of using mobile abattoirs as a solution to the lack of affordable slaughter options available to farmers and crofters, particularly those in more remote areas.
"It is important that the Scottish government now do their due diligence and thoroughly investigate the practicalities of implementing mobile abattoirs in these areas, the costs of compliance with the extensive regulations surrounding abattoirs and any biosecurity issues."
The Scottish Crofting Federation said mobile abattoirs had been considered before and welcomed the government's decision to look again at the potential of the facilities.
Director Russell Smith said: "Mobile and fixed local abattoirs improve animal welfare by reducing the distance animals have to travel.
"We have been pushing the case for local abattoirs for a long time."
But he added that there were a number of known problems with mobile facilities, such as the need for lairage - a place where livestock can be rested while en route to a market or abattoir.
Also, veterinary supervision, disposal of waste products and the need to chill carcasses.
Mr Smith said: "There have been at least two previous studies to our knowledge and no progress has been made.
"But it does work in other countries so, with some investment, it can be made to work in Scotland to the benefit of crofters, their animals and consumers."